Attendants to patients at public hospitals complain of lack of sleeping space, poor sanitationGovernment guidelines require hospitals to make living arrangements for attendants.
Narayan Adhikari’s mother-in-law was admitted to the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital four days ago after she fractured her leg.
Adhikari spent the night at the hospital just in case doctors needed anything.
“There was no proper place at the hospital for people like us who were spending the night to attend to our sick family members,” said Adhikari, 54. “Like everyone else, I spent the whole night on the cold floor of the corridor.”
Mukesh Yadav from Siraha brought his mother to Bir Hospital on Sunday morning to treat her for arthritis and back problems. The hospital didn’t admit her on Sunday citing public holiday.
Mukesh, 31, along with his wife Puja, 27, and his ailing mother Mina Yadav, 47, spent the night in the hospital corridor.
“It was very cold during the night. But there was no proper place for those attending to their ailing family members, and I was concerned about my mother the entire night,” said Yadav, whose family arrived in Kathmandu after a 12-hour bus ride.
Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital and Bir Hospital are the largest government-run hospitals—visited by hundreds of people every day. The hospitals provide services targeting the members of the public at minimal costs.
But these hospitals lack proper arrangements for those who have to spend the night to attend to their sick family members.
TU Teaching Hospital has over 700 beds. According to the hospital administration, on an average 100 patients get admitted to its 24 different wards for treatment every day.
Meanwhile, the country's oldest Bir Hospital has around the same number of beds and 500 beds remain occupied with patients.
Ram Bikram Adhikari, communication officer at the TU Teaching Hospital, said the hospital does not have seperate space for attendants to spend the night.
“We are aware of the fact, but we are helpless,” said Adhikari.
“Currently we don’t have the resources to make sleeping arrangements for those who come to take care of their sick relatives or friends. If the hospital gets grants, it will consider building a separate annex for attendants,” he added.
The hospital has 20 folding seats for the people attending to the patients at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Bir Hospital has a small room for attendants of the ICU patients. But the room is usually crammed.
“It’s suffocating,” said Lal Mani Bhusal, 66, who came from Arghakhanchi for the treatment of his nephew.
Bhusal has been staying in the same room for the past week while his unconscious nephew, who has suffered serious head injuries and has tuberculosis and pneumonia, is being treated at the ICU.
“The threat of Covid-19 is not over and here we are sharing a tiny cold room,” said Bhusal.
The Guidelines for Health Institution Management Establishment, Operation and Upgrade Standard 2070 BS clearly state that attendants t0 patients should be provided with proper facilities to stay.
However, none of the government hospitals has followed the guidelines.
Officials in government hospitals say implementing the guidelines is impossible.
“In Bir Hospital you are lucky if you get a bed. Accommodating those accompanying the patients is beyond your imagination. None of the government hospitals can do that,” said Sagar Mishra, administration chief at Bir Hospital .
“Only those who are fit and have better immunity should come here to attend to their relatives,” he added.
Like TU Teaching Hospital and Bir Hospital, the Paropakar Maternity and Women’s Hospital at Thapathali is also lagging behind in sanitation such as proper toilets and running water.
Unlike other two big hospitals, the Maternity hospital has a seperate building for male and female attendants. The second floor is for male and the third floor is for female attendants. However, the big rooms that can accommodate over 60 people each are almost empty during the nights.
“I could not sleep in the hall because it was too cold and quite far from the maternity ward,” said Rupesh Patel, 29, who had brought his pregnant wife for child delivery at the hospital on Sunday from Birgunj. He said he was worried about his wife’s health throughout the night on Sunday as she was going through a painful labour and he was not allowed to visit her.
He said just after spending one night at the hospital he has developed a runny nose and sore throat.
The country’s biggest maternity hospital sees an average of 500 patients daily, of which 80 to 100 get admitted at the maternity ward and 15 to 20 at the gynecological ward, according to the hospital administration.
Dr Amir Babu Shrestha, the hospital director said whereas they only allowed females to attend to the patients by their bedsides in the past, they now also permit husbands to accompany their wives at the new birthing centre.
Regarding the mismanagement and poor sanitation, Shrestha said he will direct the cleaning staff to keep everything in order.
“It’s been just two weeks since I joined this job. I will work to ensure the comfort of our patients and their attendants,” said Shreatha.
Dr Kedar Narsingh KC, a former president of Nepal Medical Association blames the ‘myopic political leadership’ for the mismanagement at government hospitals.
“For them development means construction of roads, bridges and view towers, but they are least concerned about the health sector,” said KC. “When they get sick and need treatment, our politicians fly abroad for treatment, so they don’t feel the need to improve the conditions of our hospitals.”
The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Finance are not concerned about the sorry state of government hospitals, KC added.